Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Rattlers

Onward, A to Z Challenge, Ho!

Florida is home to lots of critters big and small including black bears, deer, gators, wild hogs, raccoons, panthers, bobcats, armadillos and more.

Florida is home to some 46 kinds of snakes (not sure if that includes the pythons that are now inhabiting the Everglades), of which six are poisonous.

In the six decades that we've called Florida home, I've never come across the timber rattler or the copperhead since they are normally only found in north Florida. I have come up close and personal with the other four: the eastern diamondback, the pygmy rattler, the water moccasin and the coral snake.

When my parents moved from Indiana to Tampa, Florida in 1953, they lived south of Gandy Blvd. Our mailing address was Rattlesnake, FL. The post office was a block east of Westshore on Gandy. There used to be a rattlesnake cannery in that area. And, there definitely was plenty of rattlers in the area to can. A year later, Tampa annexed the area and our mailing address was Rattlesnake Station and then a short time later, we got zip codes.

When they were clearing the scrub to build the large subdivision between us and Port Tampa, I was killing four or five rattlesnakes a week in our yard and doorstep. Overrun, indeed. You literally couldn't step outside without checking that it was safe to do so. About the same time, a couple moved into the rental house next door one day and moved out the next. We found out that when they opened the cabinet doors under the sink, they found a 6-foot rattlesnake looking back at them.

A little while later, my folks owned the last of the tourist trap type shell shops on Gandy Blvd. Complete with a snake pit out front. We'd pay $1 a foot for live rattlers to dump into the pit. One time, a guy brought a big glass jar with about a dozen little 4 inch baby rattlers, I paid him a couple of bucks for all of them and dumped them in the pit. The next day, I looked and couldn't find any babies at all. Hmmmm. Ah ha, I had forgotten to put the plug in the half inch water drain hole and when I looked, sure enough, I could see where the little critters had wiggled out of the pit. We found rattlesnakes in the darnedest places around the gift shop for months after that.

In Melbourne, my wife got up one night to get a drink of water. She saw a ribbon on the dining room rug as she went to the kitchen. On the way back to bed, the ribbon moved and darted under the buffet. So there is D.C. at 2 a.m. on his hands and knees looking with a flashlight under the buffet. And finds a 2-foot pygmy rattlesnake angrily looking back. Armed with a yardstick and a large wastebasket, the rattler was captured, taken outside and killed. Our youngest daughter had just moved out and a couple days later we were moving stuff around in her old room and found the rattler's skin behind her dresser. So the critter had been in the house for a while without us knowing. Yes, that is a bit scary.

Rattlers don't really worry me. They are more scared of you that you are of them normally. So they'll scurry off if given a chance. Water moccasins, on the other hand, are aggressive. I threw a rock at a moccasin one day as it was swimming in a lake. That darn thing came after me and made me retreat to my car!

Florida is built up and the snakes and other critters have lost a lot of their habitat, so they are not as many as there used to be. It does behoove you to be aware and to understand that even if there are fewer now, they still do exist. And, no doubt, you'll come across one when you least expect it.


  1. The only rattler I have run into was a baby in Savannah, GA. Scary!!

  2. ...and you weren't the only one to post about rattlers today.

  3. I would not like to even see a rattler, we have enough King Browns here in Queensland, but at least they are not aggressive, on the Typans are.